Free agency is less than a week away and most NFL teams are gearing up for the frenzy that awaits. The Arizona Cardinals aren’t in a position to be super aggressive in free agency this offseason, but they do have some room to make a couple of much needed moves.
The Cardinals don’t have a ton of holes, but there are some glaring needs. Everyone is well aware of the need for a left tackle, I fully expect the Cardinals to make a serious run at one of the top left tackles in free agency. I also think they would like to bring back right tackle Eric Winston on a modest long term deal. The Cardinals will not have the cap flexibility to sign too many big name free agents, but I think after the offensive line, there is one other position they should target aggressively.
The Cardinals are coming off a strong season and have a small window to make a real run at contention. Don’t believe me? During an online chat, ESPN insider Matt Williamson said that he believes if the Cardinals were in the AFC that they could have been playing Seattle for the Super Bowl. He isn’t alone either, several experts believe the Cardinals are just a piece or two away from being contenders. One of those pieces that they need to add is a starting safety.
After the tackle position, safety is the team’s biggest need. Tyrann Mathieu played great as a rookie and the team expects big things from him once he recovers from an ACL tear. The other side was manned by veteran Yeremiah Bell, who is also a free agent and isn’t expected back. The Cardinals got a close up view at what a team can accomplish with a dynamic secondary when they watched their division rival march all the way to the championship.
There are several potential fits for the Cardinals at safety. Some are going to be expensive. The top players available are Jairus Byrd, TJ Ward, and Antoine Bethea. These three might be a little out of the Cardinals’ price range, but the team still has some moves they can make to create more cap space. Guard Daryn Colledge could still be a cap casualty if the team needs more room. Colledge is set to make over $7 million this season. If the team can’t afford, or just can’t land one of the top three guys, there are a couple of intriguing veterans to look at.
Miami Dolphins free agent Chris Clemons, along with San Francisco’s Donte Whitner could both bring productivity and experience to the Cardinals’ secondary. Then there are a couple of players who the Cardinals might be able to get at a better value, but that bring a little more risk. Players such as Taylor Mays, Louis Delmas, and Malcolm Jenkins have all had their challenges in reaching their top potential. Maybe a change of scenery will bring out the best in them.
I know I will be watching closely at the beginning of free agency. This year’s draft is expected to be one of the deepest in years. There is the potential to get starting caliber talent through the first four rounds. The Cardinals can use that talent to add depth, but they need to swing for the fences at their two biggest positions of need. If they can fill those two spots in free agency, it will allow them to head into the draft with maximum flexibility and the ability to truly draft the best player available.